Kale Salad with Quinoa, Cranberries and Toasted Almonds
Kale kind of sucks.
I’m aware of the inflammatory nature of the previous statement, but I like to keep it as real as possible on this blog. Trust me, no one is more upset than I am that I haven’t gotten on board with this trendy green. I’d actually like nothing more than to fall in love with kale, since admitting to other foodies/healthy eaters that I’m not a fan tends to go over about as well as when I tell people that I don’t really like dogs or babies.
Obviously, I am familiar with the superfood qualities that kale possesses, but in case you are not, I shall briefly summarize them for you. Kale is a nutritional powerhouse, people. It’s packed with calcium, fiber, and mass quantities of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as a host of essential minerals. It also has several sulphur-containing phytonutrients that amp up your body’s natural detox power, such as kaempferol, which apparently activates longevity genes. Kale fights cancer. It prevents heart disease. It promotes brain health and clear skin. Plus, the leafy green clocks in at a mere 33 calories per cup, so eating it will definitely make you skinnier. Kale is magic.
As you may know by now, I’m a sucker for foods with extreme health benefits, especially when they promise to make me smarter and prettier (see: Domesticate ME!’s love affair with sweet potatoes). As a result, disliking kale has caused me a significant amount of stress. Sure, I choke down a green juice every few weeks, and I’ll pick at a kale salad when it’s the only option, but I certainly don’t ingest enough kale to noticeably improve my brain function or skin glowy-ness. This makes me sad.
In an effort to become more pro-kale, I have been doing a solid amount of experimenting with the super green of late. I’ve tried blending it in smoothies, wilting it in soups, steaming it, sautéing it, baking it as “chips” (hate), and using it as a raw base for salads. None of these kale “situations” were terrible, but they certainly weren’t great, and as of a few weeks ago. I had pretty much given up all hope on the kale front.
And then my kale miracle happened.
Last weekend, I accompanied my roommate to The Smith for dinner with some friends. It was packed, and despite our reservation, we waited more than half an hour for our table. There was a bar, so I couldn’t have cared less, but our hostess felt very guilty for making us wait, and the restaurant was kind enough to send us a complimentary kale salad. After a few cocktails, I was displeased that we were gifted free kale instead of tater tots, but I now realize that it was fate.
That kale was a game changer for me. The finely chopped greens were incredibly tender (versus tough and chewy) and subtly dressed with lemon, olive oil and a hint of garlic. The sweetness of dried cranberries balanced the bitterness of the kale, and toasted almonds added an amazing, nutty crunch. There was also a decent amount of quinoa involved, which gave the salad extra heartiness, while still keeping things light, and a dusting of grated Parmesan really tied everything together. After the first tentative bite, I was sold.
I’m not going to lie, I’m still far from a kale convert, but I am slowly warming to it, and I’ve recreated this Kale Salad with Quinoa, Cranberry and Toasted Almonds twice since my trip to The Smith. I can honestly say that it is a pretty awesome creation. And if I’m into it, imagine how all you kale-loving freaks will feel about it. Prepare yourselves.
The best part about this salad is that it actually tastes better the next day. The longer the kale marinates in the dressing, the more tender it becomes, so it’s the type of thing that you could easily make a big batch of on a Sunday and then eat all week long. As far as salads go, this one looks very pretty and impressive on a platter, and I highly recommend serving it as an appetizer when entertaining, or even as a wildly healthy Thanksgiving side. (My family would never let me serve kale at Thanksgiving, but perhaps yours is more alternative.)
Speaking of Thanksgiving, I am aware that we are getting very close to the big day. Don’t worry, I’m about to drop some T-Day recipes on you, but please try this kale salad in preparation. Since I believe in eating one’s weight in Thanksgiving favorites for at least three days, I like to go into the holiday feeling as Gwyneth-like as possible. I suggest you do the same.
P.S. If you’re super antsy for Thanksgiving recipes, I made a Perfect Thanksgiving Pinterest board to inspire you. You’re welcome.
Kale Salad with Quinoa, Cranberries and Toasted Almonds: (Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as a side)
1 bunch dinosaur or lacinato kale
1 cup cooked quinoa
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
For the dressing:
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Fresh Ground Pepper
Preparing your Kale Salad with Quinoa, Cranberries and Toasted Almonds:
-Start by making your dressing. Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and set aside while you prepare your kale. (This will soften the shallots and allow the flavors to mingle).
-The first thing you need to do is remove the ribs from your kale. Don’t panic, there is a very simple way to do this. Start by tearing away about an inch on each side of the kale’s stalk to form “flaps.”
-Now grab the bottom of the stalk with one hand and pull up with the other hand. The entire kale leaf should come right off. Magic!
-Pile the kale leaves on top of each other and roll them up like a giant cigar.
-Thinly slice the kale, and then chop it finely. Place your chopped kale to a large mixing bowl.
-Pour the dressing over the kale.
-Use your hands to mix the salad (this is known as “massaging the kale” in fancy culinary speak), making sure that every leaf is well coated.
-Set aside for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the kale becomes very wilted.
-While your kale is wilting, toast the almonds. Place the sliced almonds in a pan (with no oil!) and toast for 3-4 minutes until they are golden brown and fragrant.
-Add the quinoa, along with half of the almonds and cranberries to your wilted kale and toss to combine.
-Transfer your salad to a serving platter or plates, top with the remaining almonds and cranberries, and sprinkle with Parmesan. Here’s to your health, friends!
Kale Salad with Quinoa, Cranberries and Toasted AlmondsAuthor -
- 1 bunch dinosaur or lacinato kale
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- ¼ cup sliced almonds toasted
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- For the dressing:
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 small shallot minced
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh Ground Pepper
- Start by making your dressing. Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and set aside while you prepare your kale. (This will soften the shallots and allow the flavors to mingle).
- The first thing you need to do is remove the ribs from your kale. Don’t panic, there is a very simple way to do this. Start by tearing away about an inch on each side of the kale’s stalk to form “flaps.” Now grab the bottom of the stalk with one hand and pull up with the other hand. The entire kale leaf should come right off. Magic!
- Pile the kale leaves on top of each other and roll them up like a giant cigar. Thinly slice the kale, and then chop it finely. Place your chopped kale to a large mixing bowl.
- Pour the dressing over the kale and use your hands to mix the salad (this is known as “massaging the kale” in fancy culinary speak), making sure that every leaf is well coated. Set aside for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the kale becomes very wilted.
- While your kale is wilting, toast the almonds. Place the sliced almonds in a pan (with no oil!) and toast for 3-4 minutes until they are golden brown and fragrant.
- Add the quinoa, along with half of the almonds and cranberries to your wilted kale and toss to combine.
- Transfer your salad to a serving platter or plates, top with the remaining almonds and cranberries, and sprinkle with Parmesan.
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This is, in a word (or 3), so f*cking good, and the easiest to prep in advance (and I have twin toddlers – this is saying something!) My kale averse husband downed half of it. Served with pan seared salmon and baked potatoes. Also 10/10 will vouch its even better the next day – recommend doubling it if you think you won’t devour it day of though.
This is such a great salad! Perfectly balanced with bright dressing, sweet craisins, crunchy nuts.
I love to make a batch of this and keep it in the fridge for lunch all week.
I just made this for the 400th time. Every time I make it, people beg for the recipe and think I’m an awesome cook. My toddlers eat it, and even pregnant me thought it was good, and she subsisted on fries, Skittles, and tofu. Nursing me is off dairy so baby will stop crying. This salad is just as good with goat cheese crumbles as with parmesan. Thank you, thank you!
This is the 2nd time I made it. I didn’t have all the ingredients so I substituted the shallot with 1/2 minced red onion (rinsed). I soaked currants in place of cranberries. I also made the quinoa with vegetable broth instead of water. it is amazing. thanks for the inspiration.
Ok, so it’s been TWO years and I’m still making this salad. Last night I substituted dried cherries in a nod to Michigan, my new home since I last posted. We all try new recipes now and then, but how often do they become a kitchen wardrobe staple?! Am very grateful. XO
I have made this a few times and we all love it, even my 4 yr old! Tonight I drizzled a balsamic reduction and it was a.maz.ing.
You will love kale salad with 2-4 Tbsp of the maple syrup dressing!
Work it through a big bunch of kale or two smaller bunches with your hands
To coat the kale leaves well, believe it or not, that’s all it takes.
The balsamic cooks the kale and turns it a beautiful deep green, if you can let it sit for 15 minutes or more, even overnight, it enhances the flavor. Yummy!
I keep a canning jar and shake the dressing and store in the frig for lots of kale salads…it’s great for other salads as well or quinoa salad with cranberries and walnuts. The sunflower oil is mild tasting and allows the stronger grade b maple flavor to shine through. Use equal portions of balsamic and maple syrup. Use any amount between 1/4 – 1/2 c of each and 1 c sunflower or flax oil. Kids will eat this kale salad!
1c sunflower or flax oil
1/4 – 1/2 c balsamic vinegar
1/4 – 1/2 c grade b maple syrup
Shake in canning jar and store in frig…great on other salads or dishes
Add goat cheese log, the maple syrup adds a touch of sweetness to the cheese
Crumble the cheese on top and add Walnuts and grilled pear or apple
I just found this recipe. I lov…..er…a…like kale. My husband buys the enormous bag of organic kale from Costco every week. I am constantly trying to use it all up before a new bag arrives! One question…Can you use baby kale instead of the giant bunchy stuff? (We also grow it each year & I prefer the small stuff.)
You can definitely use baby kale! I would still chop it up (for textural purposes), but it will be equally delicious (or as delicious as kale salad can be?) VERY impressed you make it through that much kale a week. I aspire to be so virtuous.
My new favorite recipe. Thank You!
I am a married mother of two and I just have to say that I am in love with you. Like in a gay way. And I am totally straight. This truly is the best kale salad ever (and I am one of the hippie freaks that actually enjoys riding the kale train everyone is on). I have pleasantly surprised many kale-haters with this recipe; I make it almost weekly. Also, your writing is probably the best I’ve seen in the food blogosphere in, well, maybe ever. How does somebody end up with so much brains, looks, and talent? It’s annoying in a totally magnetic way. Anyway, thanks for the sexy food and fun reading! By the way, today I’m trying your newest kale salad! It’s emabarrassing how excited I am. 😉
Kira- I would just like to say that after reading this comment, the love is mutual. Thank you so much for your fabulous compliments, which have gone straight to my head. I am enormously flattered, to say the least. I’m also glad that this kale salad has been such a hit! I sincerely hope that the newest kale salad makes you equally as giddy (personally, I like it even more than this one, despite the weirdness of curly kale). xox
Do your kids eat it? How old are they?
I love how you use Kale in this – we use it with Citrus fruits, Gorgonzola and Walnuts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ey5usZmw5Y
That looks delicious, Tushar!
I never eat kale and I have been super annoyed over the last year that kale is on every menu and in everything. But then I made this salad. It is AMAZING. I ate an entire serving just tasting it over and over, and kept “sneaking” bites in the kitchen. It was even better the next day, just as you said. I’m going to make it again for lunch on Thursday before the big feed so that we don’t gorge. HIGHLY RECOMMEND! I am going to make this a staple in our house. Thank you so much!
Ahh! I’m so happy to hear that I’ve created a (sort of) kale convert! This is one of my recent staples, and I love that it was such a success for you. And SUCH a good call on eating it pre-Thanksgiving feast. I like where your head’s at.
I admit I’m a kale lover in almost any form, but this looks delicious – can’t wait to try it!
I’m jealous of your kale love. You probably reap so many kale benefits that I’m missing out on! But I did like this salad, so I hope you try it.
Kale does suck. But I just made this–and I don’t even hate it! Thanks!
My pleasure! When it comes to kale, I’m mostly going for “not gross,” so I’m very pleased you don’t hate it. I consider this a huge success.
I too hate kale chips! But this looks delish so I will have to try it.